The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

On Wells Fargo

So, the latest revelation is in:

The scope of Wells Fargo’s fake accounts scandal grew significantly on Thursday, with the bank now saying that 3.5 million accounts were potentially opened without customers’ permission between 2009 and 2016.

That’s up from 2.1 million accounts that the bank had cited in September 2016, when it acknowledged that employees under pressure to meet aggressive sales targets had opened accounts that customers might not have even been aware existed.


I once worked for a mid-sized multinational financial corporation.

Everyone who was anyone, and everyone working in the departments in question, knew.

You can’t have numbers like these and not have everyone involved know. It cannot be done.

Everyone is either compromised or was incompetent. There will be a few exceptions, in technical corners away from executive suites and the front lines, but they will be few.

My old employer never did anything this bad (of which I was aware), they engaged in aggressive corner cutting, but tried to stay, well, legal. But when they did something dubious, it was known, even at the floor level.

And it was always driven by high-level executive demands for targets that simply could not be met by staying in the straight and narrow. Always. Low-level employees do much of the dirty work, but they do it because it is demanded, and because if they don’t, they will be let go or fired.

Numbers which can only be made by cheating, will be made by cheating. It is that simple.

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  1. V. Arnold

    Well duh!?

  2. (Tiny bit of unwanted copypasta from the previous post got into this one at the end…)

  3. That means more will come out – admissions made by the company are never all.

  4. Jreev42

    I wonder if the Oracle of Omaha, America’s grandfather knew about it. I think he’s (through Berkshire Hathaway) a very significant shareholder.

  5. Ian Welsh


  6. Alex

    Well, it is very convenient.
    I can get my banking services and identity theft all in one stop. 😉


    If they can’t find this as a reason to close WF and jail the bankers, they never will.

    This is as good a reason as it gets to dissolve the current government and throw the DC shysters in jail.

    They are incapable of doing the right thing.

  7. Hugh

    All of this is theft and fraud, and nobody will go to jail for it, certainly no one at the C level. You go into a Seven-Eleven and put your hand in the till. You will go away for a couple of years. But steal millions from your customers? It’s just an aggravation and dealing with some negative PR. You know: Sorry, we got stealing from you idiot rubes. We will try to do a better job (of stealing from you) in the future.

    This should be the kind of thing that a bank gets put into receivership over. If investors like Buffett lost their shirt on something like this, maybe they would be a lot more critical and demanding as regards banking crimes. But they won’t, so they aren’t.

  8. Chris

    Too big to fail and a failure of leadership.

  9. noosesandlampposts

    Thanks Obama! And thanks dickless neoliberals!

  10. Charlie

    Numbers which can only be made by cheating, will be made by cheating. It is that simple.

    You’ve just explained the entire economy since 2008.

  11. realitychecker

    Add the corporate corruption to the political corruption to the Department of Justice corruption, and then please explain to me why none of these mother fuckers are dying. because I am at a loss to explain it.

  12. Rich

    I call B.S.
    Low level employees will render limb by limb a morally stalwart fellow employee no matter how kind and generous they are, even ritually sacrifice a senior manager or executive who does the right thing and fights the fraud and corruption.
    I’m living that exact scenario day after day, job after job over the past 8 years. Time falls away. And I’m talking about the environment in a public hospital where these sadists and frauds wear the mantle of supposed patient care first and foremost as cover for their unremitting corruption.

    But my question for Ian welsh is this, what did you do for the targeted employee who was about to be fired or let go, Jesus, “let go”,wtf??

  13. Any one want to Tweet at Holder or Preet Bharara and ask them why these assholes, and those like them, aren’t in jail?

  14. Ian Welsh

    Don’t assume, Rich.

    When told by senior management to do something I considered illegal, I insisted they put their signature on the order to do so. They backed down.

    I was never invited to such meetings again, and left the company about a year later.

  15. The Stephen Miller Band

    There are so many Foxes in the Hen House, there are no Hens or Eggs left to collect. Hence, we get this and it’s happening much more than anyone cares to admit. The SEC, for example, is feckless due to Regulatory Capture and was hollowed out long ago. It’s a Potemkin Regulatory Agency as are ALL Regulatory Agencies these days. It’s one of many reasons I’m no longer a CPA. I will no longer lend my name and/or energy to what I perceive as a Crooked Profession.

  16. @Ian
    I also asked management to put a direction into writing and they withdrew the direction. There our stories diverge. I was “let go” about two months later due to the company’s “change of philosophy.”

  17. Willy

    My corporate rival had me whacked by framing me to the boss (who I’d once helped get promoted) as somebody with integrity, and a big mouth. Apparently that’s all it takes. There are no sit downs, no warnings, no attitude adjustment sessions. A decision is made behind closed doors that you’re a “non-cooperator” and that’s that.

    Since then I try to explain to anybody who’ll listen, that the larger the corporation the greater the chances of corruption.

  18. Tomonthebeach

    Confronting one’s boss with demands for written orders is seldom a successful strategy to influence top management to do anything but ask for your resignation. You guys know that.

    Getting very in-your-face with an executive usually creates obstinacy. Instead of looking like a solution, the confronter becomes part of their problem. The boss may be a jerk; but he is still the boss.

    I have had some successes over the years by getting to the boss’s boss – but never insubordinately. I just wove my suggestion into a briefing or report on other matters. “If we do this or that, it seems we risk violating a law, whereas…. ” Often cooler heads prevailed or sometimes the problem executive heard; “That’s an interesting idea. Why don’t you examine that more closely and get back to me – say next Tuesday? Will that work?”

    Eager to get off the hook, vincere diem, I usually was asked to do the analysis or serve on a team that did, and won the day with minimum fallout. After all, I just helped make that exec an innovator in the eyes of his boss. Even if the exec was one of those petty, resentful, win-at-all-costs types, the risk of revenge reflecting badly on them was insulating. It is like chess – risky, but like all risk – the rewards can be great – usually a promotion out from underneath a jerk.

    If all efforts fail, one can quietly resign. That act might trigger some soul searching among leaders, unless, as in the case of WF, Enron, etc. the leaders are mostly sociopaths. In either case, quietly getting off the Titanic is a more sound survival strategy than being tossed overboard. One is also less likely to get a negative reference from one’s past employer. 🙂

  19. Rich

    That’s exactly how it goes down.

    Thanks for the reply. It’s your blog. Management and Leadership never back down because to do so would be tantamount to self-exposure of their Con Game. The Con and fraud only know to double-down and perpetuate the fraud. And in the current regulatory environment, one of no oversight or enforcement, the Cons and Frauds in Leadership run their game unopposed. Hell, even you know the courts have abdicated this responsibility while the informal resolution process and arbitration system is tilted to the employer and devoid of Justice.
    But my question stands, what did you do for the employee who was about to be let go? Usually it only takes a second person aligned with the scapegoat to get the monsters to back down and exposed for their cowardice.

  20. nihil obstet

    In the civil service, asking for a written directive works. Management has to go through a process to fire you that they generally find to be too much trouble, as well as running a slight risk that the real reason for firing you might surface to their detriment. They can play games with positions (“nothing against you, but we don’t need that position any more, so we’re eliminating it”), but again, they usually find it too much trouble. The kind of person who cuts corners and is willing to go illegal usually prioritizes their own comfort pretty strongly.

    This is why, first of all, we should always fight calls to provide public agencies with more “flexibility” to deal with personnel issues, and second, we should work very, very hard to make labor law for everyone include civil service type protections.

  21. Rich

    Firing is always abjured in an At-Will work state. A fired employee has greater rights for redress rather than helpless employee being let go. He/She doesn’t fit in is the kiss of death.
    Labor law is not being enforced.
    In reality the de facto firing process has been replaced by the “letting you go 90-day notice with Cobra benefits”. All prospective employers know exactly how that process codifies for this candidate was fired, a troublemaker or worse yet, not a team player.

  22. Billikin

    “And it was always driven by high level executive demands for targets that simply could not be met by staying in the straight and narrow.”

    Another way that capitalism and communism come together. 😉

  23. Z

    Numbers which can only be made by cheating, will be made by cheating. It is that simple.

    You’ve just explained the entire economy since 2008.

    And way before that. There was a big initial ramp in corporate corruption during the Clinton administration. All those Enron games didn’t just start the moment that Bush took office.


  24. Z

    A better way of putting it than “initial ramp” would be “inflection”.

    There was a big inflection in corporate corruption during the Clinton administration.


  25. sid_finster

    Forgive me for overstating the obvious, but other than a few symbolic scalps taken, nothing will be done.

  26. cripes

    Rich, Ian and others, know from experience:

    Acting with integrity, even to protect the organization from illegal conduct and potential damage, almost always results in termination, fast or slow.

    I declined to sign a grant renewal application because I knew it was patently fraudulent: I was gone in six months. I brought in over a million yearly in new funding and offered a dignified and legal course of action to no avail. This kind of crap has happened to me more than once.

    While corruption has always been with us, and cabalism at the top of the hierarchy protecting the worst, I suspect we are seeing something far greater, empire destroying late Roman or Byzantine levels of corruption, that can only end with the looters fleeing the crime scene as society implodes.

    As Orlov keeps telling us, this can only end well for the survivors.


  27. Charlie


    Ah yes. I stand corrected.The change in calculating unemployment to make the numbers look better during the Clinton administration, among other things. I did fail to note that.
    Bush/Obama dropping mark to market surely sent that philosophy into hyperdrive. Remember the polls showing a majority of students cheating in college? They graduated, and here we are.

  28. someofparts

    When I was growing up, our next door neighbor worked at Owens-Illinois. He was a supervisor working on some huge industrial furnace that heated glass for making bottles. By the time he retired and his son was working age, the only job around for him was swindling the elderly at some local auto dealership. Since he couldn’t stomach doing that, it didn’t take him long to leave that job.

  29. Synoia


    “Remember the polls showing a majority of students cheating in college?”

    I the university system at the time in the UK, there were no grades, that was lab work, marked pass (completed) or fail, and yearly exams set and marked (graded) by people who were completely anonymous.

    There was little or no possibility for cheating in that system in the UK.

    The US system appears rampant with opportunities for cronyism, manipulation the instructor, copying, outright cheating and so on.

    It seem the US likes it’s corruptible and corrupt systems.

  30. Billikin

    While we are talking history, the change in the way the unemployment rate is calculated goes back to Reagan. (Not that any Democrats have changed it back. Low unemployment figures look good. ;))

  31. Charlie


    “Up until the Clinton administration, a discouraged worker was one who was willing, able and ready to work but had given up looking because there were no jobs to be had. The Clinton administration dismissed to the non-reporting netherworld about five million discouraged workers who had been so categorized for more than a year. As of July 2004, the less-than-a-year discouraged workers total 504,000. Adding in the netherworld takes the unemployment rate up to about 12.5%.

    The Clinton administration also reduced monthly household sampling from 60,000 to about 50,000, eliminating significant surveying in the inner cities. Despite claims of corrective statistical adjustments, reported unemployment among people of color declined sharply, and the piggybacked poverty survey showed a remarkable reversal in decades of worsening poverty trends.”

    The depression era model did change somewhat under Reagan, but more so under Clinton.


    Oh how I would have liked a UK education, but alas, money made that a non-starter for graduate level work, which is where I am now. Even with plagiarization tools such as turnitin, I still hear fromnstudents and instructors through the grapevine about egregious cases of copy and paste.

    The corruption of honesty is everywhere here.

  32. Charlie

    I would be less than honest in not posting the link for that block quote.

    And apologies for the typo iny last sentence. Phone.

  33. Hugh

    Unemployment has become a useless concept. The BLS and OECD both use a job seeker, not a job wanter model. You are considered unemployed if you do not have a job but have looked for one sometime in the four weeks before the week, usually including the twelfth, in which the Household survey was conducted. Someone who is unemployed is considered to still be part of the labor force. A discouraged worker is someone who has looked for work sometime in the previous 12 months but not in the 4 weeks prior to the survey. They are not considered to be unemployed or part of the labor force, rather they have “left” the labor force. The BLS also has another category Not in Labor Force, Want a Job Now. I did not look up the August figures but I would estimate that this would increase the current unemployment rate to around 8%. There is also a Boomer effect as Baby Boomers retire which helps keep the unemployment rate down: their exit creates some job openings for others.

    As has been noted, the Household survey has a small sampling size. This is further decreased by splitting the sample into cohorts only some of which are used in any given month. The result is that the Household survey is given to phantom blips and can be off by as much as 500,000 for any given month.

    There are other quirks, such as active military or prisoners who have production jobs, are not counted as employed or in the labor force.

    On the employment side, a job is a job is a job, no matter how good or bad. The BLS does not measure job quality. So while qualitatively and anecdotally we know that most jobs created in the nearly ten years since the recession which began in December 2007 are crappy, it is difficult to quantify how crappy they are.

    Finally, I would note that seasonally unadjusted August has been a static month, 2015-2017, but not 2014, in terms of job creation as per the much larger Establishment (business) survey. From the beginning of the year to now, seasonally unadjusted on the private side, 2017 is running slightly better than 2016, within range of 2015, and not as good as 2014. If we look at both public and private, then 2017 is shaping up as worse than any of the three previous years.

  34. Rich

    Last comment I promise.
    The interpenetration of business/corporations with Government.
    Never forget the PayPal case. Courtesy of Nathan Fuller.

  35. Peter


    The jobs report I saw listed the separate types of jobs and remarked on the increase in construction and manufacturing jobs, the best numbers in 6 years. Overall not a great month with the uptick in unemployment but not all bad news.

  36. Morongobill

    Back in the 80’s I worked for Security Pacific Bank in the collections department before moving on to headquarters as a foreign currency trader trainee. It was very common to be calling up for payment for what was known as VSI insurance, I believe that stood for vendor’s simple interest or some other words. Insurance strictly to cover the bank’s interest in the collateral. Hundreds of dollars that with interest often turned into a thousand plus. And the bank wouldn’t release the title of the car until paid off.

    So this type of insurance scam has went on for decades.

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